Community Spotlight: Melissa Errico

images-t-press-main.jpgWe don't see Mommy Poppins as just a website, we see it as a community. And we are always looking for ways to make this online space feel more and more like a live community. In that spirit we are adding two new Community Spotlight features.

Every month we will be featuring one Mommy of the Month, an exceptional mom from our community who we want to celebrate, promote, and share. We hope that you will find these posts interesting and inspiring. In addition, the Community Spotlight Billboard will be a free one-week ad slot for any small mommy-run business, artist or event.

We are kicking off our Mommy of the Month series with Melissa Errico, founding member and facilitator of the Bowery Babes moms group and singer/songwriter who just released her first album, Lullabies and Wildflowers, because Melissa has done so much to bring new mothers in her community together. Oh yeah, we also thought it was pretty special that Melissa's latest project is a music CD of lullabies, inspired by the rhythms and feelings of new mothers. An interview with Melissa is below and we hope it inspires you to connect to the families all around you and sing!? 

What is the Bowery Babes? How did it come about and what are some of your favorite programs BB has hosted?
wp-content-uploads-2007-08-ebf7.jpg Bowery Babes is a local mothers support network that began in 2005. It started from a magical prenatal yoga class held at Lila Yoga Wellness and Dharma Center in Manhattan- where I wandered in one day pregnant and totally clueless about motherhood. Over the months I met 12 women who lived in the neighborhood and were due the same week! We would waddle off and maybe talk or go to lunch sometimes if we had time. (imagine 6-8 women who are eight months pregnant walking into a small eatery!). By the time it got to April, we were all very invested in each other and wanted the best for each other. As yoga is a silent dance, we didn't always know each other's names but we had shared a quiet and profound caring and community. I didn't want it to end! I collected the emails and we had an email love fest that whole summer-- as women wrote their birth stories one by one: sharing incredibly personal details and emotions. Most people said they thought of the group during birth and it empowered them to be brave. In August 2006, I started a yahoo group and it became more organized. One of my favorite events we've done is a "classical piano concert for babies" (one of the first ideas we had) which I host. My father plays the piano and our children lie down under and around the piano, taking in the vibrations and the Mozart Effect and falling into a peaceful mood with the beautiful sounds.

Over the years, it has grown to four sister chapters and our group does a huge array of things from library events, free storytimes at the indie bookshop, playgroups, picnics, holiday parties, chef nights, knitting nights, book clubs, music and drumming classes and workshops, yoga, Whole Foods Cooking classes, Beauty Days at Bloomingdales, and charity events supporting Babybuggy. The tone of online conversation has always been supportive and accepting and non-judgmental. The goal is to keep the group fairly small (from 70- 100 members) to make lasting friendships and share knowledge and have fun in this area of NYC.

As a mom, how has having a community of other neighborhood mom's affected your parenting and sense of community?

This community has made us all feel less alone in confusing times, and also helped us to enjoy the city so much more, and rediscover what it has to offer (which is a lot!!)... I also think it has helped me to feel less frustrated at home as I see other people are dealing with certain challenges. Talking and sharing has had such a calming influence on me. In connecting with the community of other families I felt like we weren't stepping OUT of anything, but rather stepping IN. Its a terrific feeling to join something new. To connect to a new part of one's life, and help a new friend through the day.

What do you think are the challenges facing mom's in very urban settings and do you have any suggestions for other women who are looking to form a community with a focus on motherhood and community?

The challenge is getting organized. Yahoo has been fantastic for us, and I recommend that for any group of women who might be considering trying a group of their own. The biggest obstacle we all face as urban mothers is how to find quietness and peace of mind. I do think that planning a picnic and delegating potluck can be a very relaxing and pleasant simple activity-- find somewhere pretty and meet there. Because there isn't a lot of color in NYC, we call our picnics "Patchwork Picnics" and everyone brings a colorful blanket or cloth and lays it on the ground. The park becomes a patchwork of color and pattern and is simply beautiful. Manhattan (and most cities) are full of talent, so we also organize events in people's homes, for example a wonderful Haitian drummer we know (named Bonga) spreads out his colorful cloths with bells and drums and coconuts and plays drums while we all play along. Making small gatherings can create such a warmth.

I hope the Bowery Babes will be an example to other urban moms to find each other and hook up and make the best of what they have and offer comfort in a busy bustling world while at the same time make a positive impact on our community. The BB's are working to get some of our parks upgraded, doing more charity work and we are supporting our local bookshops and coffee shops.

Tell me a little about your new music CD, how it came about, how did you choose the songs?

I wanted to make lullabies for the baby and for the mommy. I hope women will find the cd soothing and uplifting at the same time-- tender and strong too. I have such fantastic groovy musicians on it-the rhythms were the most important thing to me: I wanted something that FELT really good for a new mommy, keep her groovin' a little while she's busy workin' and learnin' and lovin'....I wanted to sing like you sing to a baby: just soft and free and from the heart. Some lullabies are traditional- the classics your mother may have taught you: mockingbird, hushabye, rockabye baby. Some lullabies are drawn from unusual sources like Judy Collins and Chucho Valdez. There is an original lullaby "The Wind Says Shhh" by my brother Mike Errico, an incredible singer-songwriter-guitarist, and my first song "Gentle Child." I have a gorgeous soothing lullaby from the Beatles and classic jazz standards like "Someone To Watch Over Me" (the first song I ever sang to my daughter in the hospital) and "A Child is Born" (the most poetic song I know describing the revelation of a new baby: "now out of the night, soft as a fawn/ this child is born, one small heart/ one pair of eyes/ one work of art/ here in my arms..." )

I can't think of anything I'd rather sing about in the whole world right now. I decided that I had to make something for mothers and I knew no one would understand it unless I just went and did it. In fact, my manager didn't want me to do this and I had to let him go. I paid for it myself. A fellow Bowery Babe (Kate Neckel) did all the illustrations and the cover art for me, and she believed in me. Another mom took my photo while another did my makeup.

Check out Melissa Errico on her website or her myspace page where you can hear samples of the her songs.

And watch for Melissa at two free upcoming events:

Free Morning of Beauty. Snatch some free beauty products and a small lullabies concert and in-store cd signing - strollers welcome!!!- 10am-12:30 (music is at 11am) at Soho Bloomingdales on Friday, April 25th.

Signing and singing at Tribeca Barnes and Noble free at 4pm on May 13th.

Connecting with other moms is so important. Melissa is one of many moms who helps to bring moms together through mommy groups. Take a look at our old post about parent groups in NYC and stay tuned for the updated version coming soon.

If you want to suggest someone to be our next community spotlight or if you would like to apply for a free one-week community spotlight ad, drop us a line.

Thanks to Bess (whom I've been friends with since we met at the Jefferson Market Library when we were 2 years old) for doing this interview as her first contribution to the site.